‘Converted Through Fear Of Hellfire’. Story Of Akshay Gaur Who Became Faheem Khan For Five Months

by Swati Goel Sharma - Dec 5, 2022 02:07 PM +05:30 IST
‘Converted Through Fear Of Hellfire’. Story Of Akshay Gaur Who Became Faheem Khan For Five Months A picture of Akshay Gaur when he announced his conversion on his Facebook account.
Snapshot
  • Akshay has undergone the ‘Shuddhi’ ritual and returned to Hindu faith.

Last week, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition against forceful religious conversions, directed the Centre to get information from all states regarding steps taken by them. 

The court adjourned the matter to 5 December, that is today.

Petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay had moved the apex court seeking directions to the Centre and the states to take stringent steps to curb conversions carried out through intimidation, threats, deceit and lure of gifts or benefits. 

In between, a fresh case has come to light from Madhya Pradesh where such a law to address complaints against forceful conversions was enacted last year. 

Yet, the police have made no arrest in the case even after two weeks, highlighting the lack of seriousness shown by states in tackling such conversions.

The case is about Khandwa district resident Akshay Gaur, 25 years of age, who converted to Islam after a Maulvi scared him with the description of “jahannum” (hell as mentioned in Islamic texts). After about five months of his conversion, Akshay has returned to Hindu faith after the ‘Shuddhi’ ritual.

A picture of Akshay
A picture of Akshay
When Akshay Gaur announced his conversion on his Facebook account
When Akshay Gaur announced his conversion on his Facebook account
Akshay with activists from Hindu organisations
Akshay with activists from Hindu organisations

This correspondent spoke to Akshay about this episode over the phone yesterday. Before detailing that conversion, below is the content of the police case that Akshay filed against the cleric two weeks ago.

What The FIR By Akshay Says

The FIR (number 524/2022) was filed at Moghat Road Police Station of Khandwa on 17 November. 

Akshay’s statement recorded in the FIR says that in June this year, when he was quite worried about his career and job, he left home to visit an area called Nagchun. There, he met a man in a public park who began inquiring about his problems. 

He introduced himself as Aminuddin Qaudri, an ‘Alim’ (Islamic scholar) of one Noorani Mosque in Khandwa. He asked Akshay to visit the mosque. He obliged.

Quadri told him about Islam and asked him to visit the mosque regularly. When Akshay began doing so, Quadri started badmouthing the Hindu faith.

He said Hindus indulge in the “sin” of idol-worship, believed in many gods and it is a religion for idiots. Quadri asked Akshay to convert to Islam, as it teaches about one god called “Allah”. 

He also told Akshay that if he did not become Muslim, he would go to “jahannum” (hell) and burn there forever. However, if he offered namaz, he would get a place in “jannat” (paradise as in Islamic texts). Quadri told him Allah would not forgive non-followers of Islam.

Quadri told him that Muslims behead those who badmouth the Prophet of Islam. Scared, Akshay agreed to become Muslim. On 10 August, he read ‘kalma’ (confession of faith in Islam) in the same mosque and was given a new name — Faheem Khan. 

A few days later, he posted about his conversion on social media. One of his posts, seen by this correspondent, said, “I have chosen new religion and new name Mohammad Faim Khan”.

His friends and known ones from the Hindu community got in touch with him and told him about the trap Quadri had laid for him. Subsequently, Akshay underwent ‘Shuddhi’ ritual at a temple and revered to the Hindu faith.

Based on this complaint, the police booked Qaudri under IPC Section 295A (outraging religious sentiments and sections 3 and 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021. 

This correspondent called up the Moghat Road Police Station yesterday and today (5 December), but the calls went unanswered.

As per a report published two days ago, the police had not arrested Qaudri yet and said he was absconding.

What Akshay Told Swarajya

Akshay told this correspondent that when he posted about his conversion on his Facebook account, his friends contacted him and eventually took him to an office of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). 

Volunteers of the RSS then took him to the Mahadev Garh temple in Khandwa for ‘Shuddhi’.

For the uninitiated, the ‘Shuddhi’ movement, now known as ‘Ghar Wapsi’, began more than a century ago. It was started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati with the establishment of Arya Samaj in 1875. 

From its very inception, the Arya Samaj was a vocal critic of birth-based caste hierarchy. Swami Dayanand advocated that it is against the original message of Vedas and a later aberration.

In its initial days, the Arya Samaj worked towards raising the status of the untouchables and other lower castes through Hom (yagna), Yagnopavitha (investiture with the sacred thread) and recitation of Gayatri Mantra, which were, in most cases, denied to them by birth.

Within two years, the movement include Mohammedans and Christians. The first recorded instance of Shuddhi of a non-Hindu undertaken by Swami Dayanand was in 1877. 

In his 1915 book The Arya Samaj, Lala Lajpat Rai, who joined the movement in early 1880s, wrote that Shuddhi literally means purification, but when used by Arya Samajists, it includes reclamation and conversion.

Akshay says his Shuddhi ritual involved a ritualistic bathing, cutting of hair and havan, after which it was declared to all present that he was Faheem Khan no more.

Akshay, who belongs to the Rajput caste, says that it was the fear of forever burning in hellfire that made him convert to Islam. “This was the prime reason,” he says, adding that it was this fear that his friends and RSS volunteers got rid him of.

Asked how, he says they explained to him about the concepts of Karma and reincarnation.

Akshay says he did not undergo the ritual of circumcision. 

“They told me it was not necessary. Yet. But I were to marry, that is have nikah with a Muslim woman, circumcision would have been necessary,” he says. “In that case, I would have also changed my locality and shifted to a Muslim mohalla.”

Asked what changes he underwent in his lifestyle when he was briefly converted, Akshay says he grew a beard and began wearing kurta-pajama to follow “Sunnat”, that is things that Prophet of Islam did as per Hadiths

He did namaz five times a day, spent a lot of time in the mosque and, in his free time, watched videos of Pakistan-based Islamic clerics Tariq Masood and Tariq Jameel. Quadri would force Akshay to give “deen ki dawat” (invitation to Islam) to his family and friends too.

Akshay says that after he got out from the trap of Quadri and went through Shuddhi, he filed a police case against him with the support of RSS volunteers. Asked if he felt safe after filing the case, Akshay says he does as he has support of his community. 

“I live in a Hindu mohalla. I feel safe here though I don’t go out much,” he says.

Akshay says he did a polytechnic course after his school, and has worked at a couple of offices. When he met the cleric, he “was in depression” about his future. His worry on that front has increased. 

“Now there is almost a year-long gap since my last job. I have been advised to study further and get a better job,” says Akshay. “That is where all my focus is, for now.”

On Dawah Activities

The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) busted a major Islamic conversion centre last year that the police claimed was involved in converting around a thousand people to Islam through coercive means using funds from international sources including Pakistan’s notorious spy agency ISI. The group operated mainly in Uttar Pradesh.

After busting this module, the ATS made a high profile arrest of Maulana Kalim Siddiqui, calling him the kingpin of Dawah [conversion] activities in India. Along with the arrest, the police released testimonies of several Hindu men who shared stories of their conversion through lure of money or fear of hellfire.

This correspondent reported last year how Siddiqui’s interviews and talks revealed a fanatically superstitious mind, particularly towards the Islamic idea of eternal hellfire for non-believers. He carried out most conversions by instilling the same fear among others, as per his open admission. 

A press note by the ATS said, “In the guise of giving sermons on humanity, the Maulana instils fear of hellfire in the hearts of people, which makes them not only convert to Islam but also become active missionaries.”

For further reading:

Read the report by this correspondent on Kalim Siddiqui and Dawah centres here

The Story Of Umesh Rai Who Became Mohammed Abdullah 15 Years Ago, But Has Done ‘Ghar Wapsi’ Now

Ground Report: Why Muslims Across Haryana Did ‘Ghar Wapsi’ During Lockdown 

Attacked For Not Converting To Islam: Punjab Resident In Viral Video

Government-aided Children's Home Converts Three Hindu Kids To Islam; Child Rights Commission Intervenes

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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